Hiking Away From the Long Trail

    The Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail continued as one, representing a precious slice of the Green Mountains available only on foot. Streams tumbled along side the Trail adding a musical score that served as the soundtrack to our hike. The swift waters sculped the ancient rock over time creating shapes only Mother Nature could design. One of those water and rock art shows could be found at Clarendon Gorge where a suspension bridge spanned the frothy waters. We had been told the bridge was responsible for a hiker’s death recently due to the unstable nature of the span during windy weather. As we walked across, we could appreciate just how easily a top heavy hiker could be tossed from the undulating foot bridge.

     Just past the gorge was a classic stone shelter that had been home for a family of four since the weather had been warm. The Clarenden Shelter was pretty close to the road which usually means a high probability of drunken locals, or, as in this case, down-and-out squatters looking for rent free accomodations. When we arrived, however, they had already moved on due to the many hikers that tipped off the authorities who chased them a week before we arrived.

  Killington loomed before us. Mark and I adjusted our packs and made the climb up the highest mountain on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont. The problem with this state is the ski areas. Every peak seems to have a ski resort on it. The magic of a mountain ascent is lost when forest is scarred up for the recreation of neon clad two plankers. There were many stunning overlooks and the summit was impressive despite the ski trails and wide eyed gomers. The end of the knee jarring descent off Killington featured a favorite beer stop among hikers.

     The Inn at the Long Trail was a welcome watering hole for a pair of parched travelers like ourselves. We swilled some suds and headed back to the Trail. As we were leaving, a thru-hiker from the year before offered to buy us more beer. Needless to say, we staggered from the Inn hours later and slept it off across the street at a hastily constructed campsite.

     We woke to the throb of a lager induced hangover. As Mark and I broke camp, I found a most curious “item”. At first glance it resembled a hunk of squirrel fur but a close examination left me dumbfounded. The best guess was “alien spore”. I stuffed it in my pack and later identified it as a seed pod from a locust tree.

Out of the valley and take a right at the top of the ridge… The AT split from the Long Trail and the familiar orange blazes of the Dartmouth Outing Club led toward New Hampshire. The rains came quite heavily and we were pretty waterlogged by the time we reached Mauri Wintturi Shelter. Even soaked, the AT remained well groomed and a pleasure to hike. One of the shelters in this section, Cloudland, featured the finest privy on the Trail. Inside was a card box that served as the register and you could scrawl your words of wit as you took a shit.

 The Trail rolled over gentle mountians, across wildflower speckled pastures and towards the Connecticut River Valley. Just outside of West Hartford, Vermont, Mark and I passed a vast network of tubing connecting maple tree after maple tree with a sap draining system for the mass production of maple syrup. Amazing and delicious…Before the AT dipped into Norwich, Vermont it passed the oldest shelter on the Trail, Happy Hill Cabin. I heard the cabin was taken down due to rats and local vandalism. It was pretty beat up when Mark and I passed through, interupting the hippy chick, Dannette, and her friend during their lunch. (Hey, how’d they get by us…?) Just a downhill and we were roadwalking over the Connecticut River and into our second to last state of the Appalachian Trail.

…continue the expedition, read: Entering the White Mountains [link]